Letter to Paul Wombell, Post-scriptum and Afterthoughts About the Automated Image – Jean Gagnon

I had the pleasure of being invited by Chuck Samuels, the director of Le Mois de la photo à Montréal, to join Paul Wombell, the curator of Le Mois de la photo 2013, at the screening of art video shorts and a presentation of Michael Snow’s La région centrale (1970) at La Cinémathèque québécoise. Of course, the general theme of this year’s edition, Drone: The Automated Image, explored the issue of the automation and autonomy of machines and instruments, but also, as Jacques Doyon’s interview with Wombell revealed, that of agency.

In these terms, it becomes possible to advance a critique of the “automated” image, but first we must come up with better definitions and ways to distinguish the machine from the instrument, the machinery from the instrumentation. If we read Doyon’s interview with Wombell in French and English, there is an obvious shift in meaning between the French appareil and its English translation as “instrument.” I have discussed elsewhere the translation issues around the term appareil, which I proposed to translate into English as “apparel,” to differentiate it from instrument and from dispositif, which is often translated as “apparatus.” 1 Here, I will go more directly to the heart of the question: how to distinguish between the machinery and the instrumentation of vision. Translated by Käthe Roth

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Jean Gagnon is the director of collections at the Cinémathèque québécoise à Montréal. After earning a BA in fine arts, with a major in film production and film studies, he worked at the Canada Council for the Arts for three years before becoming associate curator of media arts at the National Gallery for Canada, a position he held for seven years; he then was executive director of the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology for ten years. He has taught in a number of Canadian universities and acted as a consultant for cultural organizations. Recently, he undertook doctoral studies in art studies and practices at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

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